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Biological Abstracts: Search Tips

Search Tips

Boolean Operators link concepts and are used to broaden or narrow your search. Briefly, here's how they work:

AND - finds results with your all search terms.  AND narrows your search.

OR - finds results with any of your search terms.  OR broadens your search.

NOT - finds results with only one of your search terms.  NOT narrows your search.

Take a look at the Boolean Operators guide for more detailed information about how to use this valuable search technique.

Wildcards are symbols used in place of letters or words to help you broaden your search.  Here's how they work:

  • The asterisk (*) represents any group of characters, including no character. It is best for using with the root of your term.


Hawaii* finds: Hawaii w*ter: water
  Hawaii Island   wastewater
  Hawaiian   Walter
  Hawaiians, etc.   winter, etc.


  • The question mark (?) represents any single character. It is especially good for finding the American and British variation of your term.


wom?m finds: women hydroly?e finds: hydrolyze
  woman, etc.   hydrolyse


  • The dollar sign ($) represents zero or one character. It can find American and British variations or the plural form of your term.


colo$r finds: color scholar$: scholar
  colour   scholars, etc.


To find out more about this search technique in Biological Abstracts, take a look at the help page about Wildcards.

You have probably noticed when searching in databases or using Google, that when you enter a phrase - such as invasive species - some of your results contain both words, but not as a phrase.

To make sure your terms are searched as a phrase, you need to use quotation marks.

  • When you surround your search terms with quotation marks, you are telling the database that the words must appear as a phrase.
  • Let's take a closer look.

In Biological Abstracts the following searches break down like this:

invasive species = 19,559 results
"invasive species" = 6,765 results

  • Searching for the terms with no quotation marks gives us results that contain both terms but they may be in different sentences. 

For example, one of the articles that is found for the search with no quoatation marks is about the analysis of two species using a field research technique that is less invasive than others.

  • We get fewer results with "invasive species" because all the results contain the exact phrase.
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Quick Tips

When searching in Biological Abstracts, here are a few things to note:

Capitalization does not matter:

  • MRI works the same as mri or Mri.

Apostrophes are searched as spaces:

  • to be sure you're getting all relevant results, search for (Hodgkin's OR Hodgkins)

Use the hyphen when searching for words that are often hypenated:

  • cross-cultural will return results with cross-cultural and cross cultural